Canada is generally considered to have a lower cost of living than much of Europe. As with many places there is a degree of variation between cities and rural areas, with Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa among the most expensive places to live. However, the Canadian government estimates that household expenses such as accommodation, utilities, food, clothing, health insurance and transportation can be covered by approximately half the household income. With good infrastructure and government-funded services to support residents, Canada can be a good place to work and save, provided you budget carefully.
Rental accommodation is widely available in Canada and depending on the location there are some bargains to be found, but bear in mind that the majority of properties are let unfurnished. An increasingly popular choice in Canada is condominium living in a range of different property types. Property rentals are well-regulated, with standard agreements outlining essential details. Contracts are usually 12 months initially and it is not advisable to terminate early as you would be liable for loss of rent.
If you choose to buy a property in Canada, there are no federal restrictions on foreign nationals purchasing property, and only minor limitations at a local level. For more information on mortgages in Canada and general accommodation advice, visit the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation website.
Security deposits in Canada are typically two weeks’ rent. The legal maximum that a landlord can request as a deposit is one month’s rent, except in Québec where rental deposits are not allowed. The laws surrounding deposits are quite strict. In some provinces, the deposit is held by the authorities rather than the landlord, while in others landlords must return the deposit within a certain number of days after the let ends.
Local property tax is charged by provinces and will depend on the location and value of the property, so make sure you find out the cost when you have a viewing.
Utility management in Canada varies depending on the type of supply and the area you live in. Water is normally the responsibility of provincial or municipal services and tariffs are low compared to the rest of the world. Gas supply is a competitive marketplace, but there are nowhere near as many providers as there are for electricity, telephone or internet services. Be aware of the increased bills in winter if you choose to live in a colder area of the country.
Perhaps because of its links to Britain, many people are surprised to learn that in Canada there is no cost for owning a television.
Healthcare and medical costs
The Canadian public healthcare system is funded by taxation and administered on a provincial level. To access services you must have health insurance, although all Canadian citizens and permanent residents are eligible for public health insurance. If you move to Canada on a permanent basis there may be a three-month wait before you are able to access this scheme, so apply for a health card through your local provincial website as soon as you are able to and purchase private cover to avoid high treatment costs in the intermediate period. If you are not a permanent resident or your province will not cover you for treatment in other areas, private cover may also be a good idea.
Although groceries in Canada are not considered cheap, they are usually less expensive than in Europe. Food is a little more expensive than in the USA, while alcohol and cigarettes are heavily taxed. Branded clothing and accessories are as expensive as elsewhere in the world, but cheap foreign imports and increased competition between retailers has led to more affordable items appearing in wholesalers and factory outlets.
Canada’s sales tax system has three types of tax that apply differently on a province by province basis:
- Goods and Services Tax (GST) – levied by the federal government
- Provincial Sales Taxes (PST) – levied by the provinces
- Harmonised Sales Tax (HST) – a combined tax which replaces GST and PST in certain provinces
For current sales tax rates for each province, visit the Canadian Government website.
- Rent on 1-bedroom apartment in city centre – $1,063.33 (≈£580.99) per month
- Rent on 1-bedroom apartment outside city centre – $831.50 (≈£454.32) per month
- Price of apartment in city centre – $4,038.59 (≈£2,206.63) per square metre
- Price of apartment outside city centre – $2,797.90 (≈£1,528.74) per square metre
- Loaf of bread – $2.72 (≈£1.49)
- Milk (1 litre) – $1.98 (≈£1.08
- Bottled water (1.5 litre) – $2.02 (≈£1.10)
- Draught beer (0.5 litre) – $5.00 (≈£2.73)
- Packet of cigarettes – $10.80 (≈£5.90)
- Petrol (1 litre) – $1.31 (≈£0.72)
- Cinema ticket – $12.00 (≈£6.56)
Source: www.numbeo.com (accessed June 2014)
Budgeting and savings
To help residents of Canada with their budgeting and financial planning, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has created a range of online tools and calculators, as well as giving advice on useful consumer topics and scenarios.